Since Covid-19 appeared at the beginning of 2020, global travel (and also, in a certain way, the care-freeness of going to distant places) has been severely affected. At the beginning of 2022, there’s a chance we might be able to reconsider some of the plans we had made prior to the pandemic, even if the current uncertainty persists and causes many people to remain cautious. For this reason, our proposed list of places to visit in 2022 is deliberately less exotic because we are convinced that, in light of the emergence of new variants, obligatory testing, strict sanitary and hygienic measures and vaccination levels not having yet been achieved on a global scale, people’s spontaneity and quest for adventure will be greatly reduced. Our aim, therefore, is to focus on destinations that are closer to home and less affected by these restraints – places of beauty that are still largely unknown to many travellers, which means we’ll be looking at alternatives rather than suggesting the most common ones. We will begin in Italy and then move across Europe to encompass some overseas destinations.
Both for greater freedom and general health and safety reasons, getting a low-cost car rental is by far the best solution. On the website of the car rental company – Auto Europe – you will find the most affordable deals for cars of various sizes right up to multi-seater minivans, as well as luxury vehicles and even campers. Consolidated by almost seventy years of business activity, Auto Europe collaborates with all the world’s top car hire companies by offering around 24,000 pick-up locations in over 180 different destinations.
Your home country is very often the one you know the least, and in the last couple of years many Italians have been forced into gradually rediscovering theirs! Located in the top right-hand corner of the country, right on the border Austrian and Slovenian borders, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is certainly one of Italy’s lesser-known regions. Because of its small size, you can drive from north to south in an hour and a half and in doing so experience its many different landscapes, from the Friulian Alps and Prealps to the central hills sloping down to the plains towards the Adriatic. There really is something for everyone! Friuli’s location dictates that it has always been on the very edge of Italy, but if you look at the bigger picture you will immediately notice that it is much more projected towards Central Europe. Much of the region was under the rule of the Habsburgs for almost half a century. Trieste, still very much an undiscovered gem, was the final piece in Italy’s puzzle. A tour of the city traditionally starts in Piazza Unità d’Italia, a large square surrounded by majestic and very elegant buildings that testify to the great importance this place once had as the region’s only sea-port during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A major ethnic and multi-religious centre, Trieste is an extremely lively city from a cultural point of view that once played host to the likes of Umberto Saba, Italo Svevo and even James Joyce who lived there for a few years. Maximilian of Habsburg left a spectacular monument – Miramare Castle – a residence he built for his beloved Carlotta and which is today one of the most visited palace-museums in Italy. Behind Trieste there is the Karst Plateau, a land dotted with picturesque villages and exhilarating country routes affording the most breathtaking views.
Leaving the capital and heading up the coast towards the province of Udine, it’s worth stopping at Duino to visit its impressive castle. After that you can explore the famous Rilke Path which overlooks the cliffs and is dense in Mediterranean scrub running all the way down to the Bay of Sistiana, where you can stop for a relaxing swim with the beautiful city of Trieste as a backdrop. Udine is the second-largest city in the region and is best discovered on foot with a leisurely stroll through its lovely historic centre, which is dominated by the Venetian-style Loggia del Lionello and the castle perched high on a hill. Another must is the 30-minute trip from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli, a name that will probably sound familiar because of its delicious cured ham, which is as certainly as popular as Parma ham. The town of San Daniele itself is draped across a large hill and the local ham is produced in the many factories located on its slopes. You can further enjoy your visit with a guided tour before booking a table at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants. For wine lovers, the most appealing place to go is Colli Orientali near the city of Cividale. Besides visiting a vineyard or two and tasting the wines, you should also find time for Cividale to see the Devil’s Bridge, National Archaeological Museum and the Lombard Temple. Whether for winter skiing or summer hiking, Ravascletto and Sauris are two of the best places to visit where the prices are much more affordable than some of the region’s more upmarket destinations. In summer, the seaside resorts of Lignano Sabbiadoro, Bibione and Grado are good alternatives to Rimini and Riccione.
Not far from Friuli, once you have crossed the Alpine passes, you’ll come to the Austrian region of Carinthia, a land of lakes set amongst many towering peaks ideal for both winter sports and exhilarating holidays in the great outdoors. The hotels here are very well equipped with some dedicated to hosting families with young children. From the thousand or so lakes in the region, we’d like to suggest a visit to Millstätter See to see the Benedictine Abbey of Millstatt and its famous path lined by villas and statues running beside the lake. An hour away, in the direction of Lienz, you’ll find the Hohe Tauern Mountains with the amazing Pasterze glacier. Just beyond the Friulian border to the east, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Balkan tour following the Istrian shoreline stretching all the way up to the Dalmatian coast, with a thousand possible stops and detours en route. The best option is to rent a car in Slovenia departing from Pula, a city right at the tip of Istria boasting a magnificent Roman arena, before continuing to Rijeka, Zadar and finally Split. Those who enjoy longer road-trips can venture into Montenegro and carry on towards Kotor. Split is famous for its Diocletian’s palace which was also the chosen setting for some episodes of Games of Thrones, while Kotor is worth seeing for its enchanting old town and idyllic location beside Kotor Bay.
Those in need of some near-tropical heat without going as far as Brazil or Africa – and hence spending much less time in the air – will find exactly what they’re looking for in Morocco, Madeira and the Canary Islands. The latter are part of Spain, while Madeira belongs to Portugal, and a holiday in both places won’t require either a visa or changing up any money; in short, they are easy places to visit. In both cases, the food is excellent with an abundance of fresh meat and fish dishes available, as you’d fully expect. Among the various islands of the Canary Archipelago we recommend Gran Canaria with its wonderful capital, Las Palmas. This island is very lively and authentic and, as usual, the most beautiful parts are the most difficult to reach, such as the steep mountainous hinterland and the north-eastern coast which has landscapes that seem almost lunar in parts and in some parts are almost reminiscent of America’s Grand Canyon. The small island of Madeira is dominated by soaring mountains covered with wild forests, which is ideal for exciting excursions in-between periods of total relaxation on the beach. Because of their locations, both the Canaries and Madeira are fertile enough for the growing of tropical fruit and other produce such as bananas and sugar cane. In fact, the former is particularly famous for its rum distilleries which can be visited for tastings and purchases.
A little more challenging from the point of view of distance is Mauritius, an island located in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar. Prior to gaining independence in 1947, it passed from the Dutch to the French before falling under British rule. Thanks to its compact size, you can move around the island very quickly by car travelling from one side to the other in a short time. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed while the local people always very warm and welcoming. The climate allows for the cultivation of sugar, tea and vanilla, and it was for this reason that workers were first drawn to the island, especially from the Caribbean and India. The fact that Mauritius is a cultural melting pot of Creole, Indian, Arab and Chinese is something that immediately catches your eye, a perfect example being the island’s enchanting capital, Port Louis. At its market you can sample all these different types of cuisine and nearby visit their respective places of worship, such as the Christian churches of St James and St Louis, as well as the white mosque of Jummah which is curiously located in the Chinese Quarter. Regarding Hinduism, we suggest a visit to the volcanic lake of Ganga Talao (which is said to have spiritual connections with the Ganges River) and on whose banks several places of worship have been built. Not far away, there are the tea plantations of Bois Cheri where you can take a break to enjoy a cup of the local tea, as well as Black River Gorges Natural Park, the Chamarel Waterfalls and the Lands of the Seven Colours, a real feast for nature lovers’ eyes. To the north in Pamplemousse you can visit the lush Botanical Garden and L’Aventure du Sucre Museum which illustrates the processing of sugar cane. You might be wondering why we haven’t yet mentioned any of the island’s beaches… In actual fact, the vast wealth of attractions offered by this small island is exhaustive. Now it’s time to invite you on a boat-trip to Blue Bay to admire the many colourful fish that inhabit its coral reef whilst admiring the spectacle through the glass floor from the comfort of your seat, or perhaps you’d prefer diving off the boat to do some snorkelling!
Aware of having neglected Northern Europe a bit, we will finish this article by mentioning Norway, certainly a very interesting place both from the perspective of its fantastic landscapes and more recently from an artistic and cultural point of view. Being a very long, narrow country it is best to start by exploring the southern part, including the cities of Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Bergen, beginning with the Norwegian capital. Oslo is located on the Baltic Sea and from there you can drive along the southern tip of Scandinavia to Bergen, a charming city spectacularly situated on the North Sea. You can get a taste of the high quality of life in this city and its artistic richness at the Munch Museum, National Gallery and Vigeland Park where over two hundred sculptures are on display. The tour continues with a fascinating itinerary interspersed with stunning fjords and picturesque towns offering the possibility of heading, whenever you fancy, towards the deeply-wooded and wilder parts of the country’s interior. And if time permits (perhaps on a future trip), the northern part of the country can be reached by a domestic flight, starting with a visit to Tromso, a city located very close to the Arctic Circle. Needless to say, it’s really cold here, but there are many breathtaking fjords to see as well as the unparalleled spectacle of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
We have reached the end of this round-up of places that we certainly hope will have stirred your curiosity enough to persuade you to embark on some real-life adventures on the road, however practical that might be in this unusual situation we are currently experiencing. Travelling and discovering new things is vital and there are always plenty of enticing options to consider.